Our Favorite Wes Montgomery Album

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California Dreaming

  • For the first time in three years, an amazing Triple Triple (A+++) copy of this excellent Wes Montgomery title
  • Both sides here are OUT OF THIS WORLD; this is DEMO DISC Quality Big Production Guitar-led Jazz
  • It’s incredibly big, bold, clear, rich and dynamic like no copy we’ve ever played
  • Forget the critics, this is one of Wes’s Best Albums of All Time I tell you!

This White Hot Stamper Shootout Winner has the REAL Wes Montgomery/ Creed Taylor/ Rudy Van Gelder MAGIC in its grooves. You will not believe how big, rich and full-bodied this pressing is. Since this is one of Wes’s best albums, hearing this incredible White Hot copy was a THRILL for us and we’re sure it will be as big a thrill for you too.

Both Sides

As Good As It Gets Sound. So natural, transparent and clear. Listen to all the space around the guitar. (On the Cisco you might hear 20% of that space. That’s Heavy Vinyl for you. What a load of crap.)

It starts off a little blurry but quickly gets amazingly good, so good nothing could touch it. This was by far the most musically exciting and involving side we played in our shootout.

Don’t Settle for Less

Beware any and all imitations (even the one I used to like somewhat, the Cisco version). They barely BEGIN to convey the qualities of the real master tape the way this pressing does. This White Hot Stamper exhibits huge amounts of ambience and spaciousnesss, with far more energy and the kind of “see into the studio” quality that only the real thing ever seems to have.

Wall to Wall

Note especially how so much musical information is coming from the far sides of the soundfield. The Cisco reissue makes a mockery of that wall to wall sound, sucking it into the middle and flattening it into a single plane. Ugh.

To be fair — and I always am — the Cisco did beat and will beat many of the copies you might run across. There is a very simple explanation for this: Verve is probably the most poorly mastered label in the history of the world. No other label produced so many wonderful sounding recordings that were turned into lousy sounding LPs — I could list them for days.

Verve Problems

Even though we’ve had a bad case of Verve fatigue here at Better Records for a very long time, this album is so special that we took a chance on an open copy at a local store a few years ago, and I’m sure glad we did. It was Out of This World. It blew the doors off the Cisco pressing that we used to like (and recommend) back in 2007. I never knew the album could sound like that.

Everything that’s good about this era of RVG’s recordings, Wes’s music and those glorious Don Sebesky arrangements is here. For my part let me just say that this is the best sounding Wes Montgomery record I have ever played, and musically my personal favorite of his as well.

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – 4 Way Street

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Our Latest Shootout Winner

  • An honest to goodness Top Copy, with two Triple Plus (A+++) sides and two Double Plus sides – this is about as good as it gets, folks
  • If you want to hear Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young rock out live in your listening room, this is the pressing that can do it
  • Bill Halverson did a great job but you have to work your tail off to find a copy that does his brilliant engineering justice. Sad, isn’t it?
  • Rolling Stone raves that “Crosby, Stills. Nash, and Young are all performers of unquestionable talent, and mostly because they stay out of each others’ way, 4 Way Street must surely be their best album to date.”

If you want to hear Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young rock out live in your listening room, this copy will let you do it. It’s not easy to find good sound on even one side of this album, let alone all four!

And these shootout winning Triple Plus sides are going to blow your mind – you have never heard this album sound remotely as good as it does on these sides, guaranteed or your money back.

What to Listen for

Our best copies are big, clear, present, and dynamic. They show you what few copies can: how well-recorded the album is. Bill Halverson did a great job but you have to work your tail off to find a copy that does his brilliant engineering justice. Sad, isn’t it? (more…)

Moondance on Heavy Vinyl

If you want to hear this record right (and you have $650), you may be in luck, we just put THIS KILLER COPY on the site and it may still be up there.
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Rhino / Warners Heavy Vinyl Debunked – Again

Sonic Grade: F

The original grade I gave out in 2014 when last I played this remastered version as part of a shootout was “D.” I explained at the time:

Just listen to how strange Van’s voice sounds, so lean, hard and sour. That alone qualifies it for an “F”, but considering how bad most pressings of this album are, let’s be fair, if not downright generous, and call it a “D”.

I just revisited the record in a current shootout, and after giving it some thought I have decided that the right grade is in fact “F.” It cannot be any other, for reasons I discuss below.

In 2014 I had written:

Where is the Tubey Magic of the originals? The sweetness? The richness? And why is there so little ambience or transparency? You just can’t “see” into the studio on this pressing the way you can on the good originals, but that’s fairly consistently been the knock on these remastered Heavy Vinyl records. We noted as much when we debunked Blue all the way back in early 2007, so no surprise there.

Having just played a marvelous shootout-winning early pressing, this time around I found the reproduction of Van’s voice on the reissue to be so leaned-out, artificial and unpleasant that I could hardly stand to listen to it.

We had reset the VTA correctly; the overall tonal balance of the recording from top to bottom was correct. It was only the voice that sounded so off. All the other shortcomings I had mentioned before were still true of course, but none of that mattered. The singer on this record just sounded awful.

As you know, we are constantly making improvements to our playback system. The real Moondance we had just played sounded better than ever. The fake Moondance, however, was sounding worse than ever. That’s what higher quality playback can do for you: separate the true winners from the phony losers.

Do I have a bad copy? Maybe, can’t say I don’t. If any of you out there in the real world have a copy of this pressing and would be willing to send it to me to audition I would be more than happy to do so. Short of that I’m not sure what more I can do. I certainly do not feel the least bit inclined to waste a nickel of my hard earned money on another copy. (more…)

Marty Paich – One of Our Favorite Arrangers

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MARTY PAICH is one of our favorite arrangers. Some of the better albums arranged by Marty in our opinion are Spirit’s first, Art Pepper Plus Eleven, Ella Swings Lightly and Whisper Not, and the amazing The Hi-Lo’s And All That Jazz.  Copies or commentaries for all of them can be found on our site.

Because the Marty Paich Dek-tette usually appeared in support of other artists, its importance has been overlooked in jazz history. More than anyone else, Paich kept cool jazz alive long after his contemporaries (including Shorty Rogers and Gerry Mulligan) had abandoned the style. (Ironically, the final appearance of the classic Dek-tette appeared on Ella Fitzgerald’s 1966 album “Whisper Not”, where they backed her on a swinging version of “Time After Time”. In the late 1980s, Paich re-formed the Dek-tette for two reunion albums with Mel Tormé.) For Tormé, Jeri Southern, Sammy Davis, Jr. and the Hi-Lo’s, their albums with Paich and the Dek-tette represented some of their finest recordings. “Ella Swings Lightly” doesn’t qualify as Fitzgerald’s all-time best album, but it is certainly a highlight from an extraordinary part of her career.

Thomas Cunniffe

John Sebastian Songbook, Vol. 1

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Our Killer Shootout Winner for 2017

Great sound for some the biggest hits of The Lovin’ Spoonful, a band I wouldn’t have expected to hear sound good on vinyl if I lived to be a hundred, and yet, here it is. This is one of the rare cases where, in our experience, the hits compilation sounds BETTER than the original records. Why? Who knows? We don’t pretend to have all the answers. What we do have (that no one else has, if that’s not too obvious) are the records that back up the claims we make for them.

How they came to be that way is anyone’s guess. All we know for sure is that, judging by the best copies of this album, somebody got hold of some awfully good tapes and somebody mastered them with uncanny skill to what sounds to these ears like near perfection.

Actually, the mastering engineer for this compilation and the Best of from the same year is a person well known to us record collecting audiophile — the person that ends up with this record can look in the dead wax for his info and the rest of you are welcome to guess — so it’s really no surprise that this compilation sounds as good as the Best of that we rave about.

Audiophile Quality Sound, Can It Really Be True?

There is very little chance that you have ever heard these songs sound this good, on any medium. CD compilations can be very good; they gain an edge because there is no need to make dubs of the masters in order to compile the tracks. And there may very well be CD versions of this material that sound much better than most of the vinyl editions sitting in the bins.

We’ve been buying Lovin’ Spoonful albums for twenty years or more and the vast majority of the ones that aren’t beat to death sound crude, smeary and midrangy. Some are dry and transistory (ugh), some are muddy and opaque (ditto), and if you have these albums you have records that fall into those two categories.

This copy is none of those things. We are happy to finally be able to offer our customers Lovin’ Spoonful sound to please their audiophile tastes. It may have taken more than twenty years, but it just goes to show that if you play enough records over a long enough period of time you will eventually stumble on to the pressing that has the sound you’ve been searching for. No rocket science, just money, time and dedication.

Roy Halee Interview

Mix magazine interviewed the man back in 2001 about his engineering of some of the later Lovin’ Spoonful sessions.

Was it hard to switch back and forth between, say, the Lovin’ Spoonful and a big pop session?

No, I can’t say it was. One might be a little more challenging than another. You go into the studio with a 70-piece orchestra and you’re doing it live — that was a helluva challenge. You couldn’t spend two hours getting a drum sound, obviously. You had to get it right away. But then a group like the Lovin’ Spoonful was challenging in its own way. You’re working to really capture the sound of the group, and that’s not always easy. I really liked them. John Sebastian was really great to work with. They got a little crazy sometimes, but they were a lot of fun. To cut a record like “Summer in the City,” and watch it go up to Number One and sit there for weeks — that was a ball; it was really thrilling.

The Recordings of The Lovin’ Spoonful

These Are Some that Didn’t Make the Grade

Derek Discusses Dark Side of the Moon

Yet another album we are clearly obsessed with

Click on the link below to pull up the many reviews and commentaries we’ve written, as well as Hot Stamper copies that are currently available on the site.

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DSOTM

I wanted to comment on the discussion as to the validity of the ‘Better Records’ business model and offerings to audiophiles. As a backgrounder, I am an electrical engineer that grew up in the 60s and 70s listening first hand to many of the classic LPs that Better Records now offers for sale. I was also a musician with perfect pitch (playing French Horn in the Symphony and keyboards in various bands), I had a killer stereo and spent a lot of time in recording studios that produced some of the top acts and albums of the era so I certainly had exposure to the best equipment and listening environments back in the day.

I went on to being a CEO of various telecom/mobile software companies and somewhat lost touch with my musical purist roots. But I had 3 boys and one of them turned out to have the same music bug I had and he has gone on to pursuing a career as a recording engineer, re-introducing me to analog vinyl LPs, pushing me to re-engage in my greatest love, which I eventually did in spades: I tossed out my electrostatics and full digital sound chain and I built a set of Altec 604 monitors driven by a 300B tube amp and a killer turntable, and I went about spending about $30,000 on 1st pressing vinyl from around the world, cleaning them with an ultrasonic platform, and I learned a great deal during that process.

For one, I fell back in love with high efficiency speaker systems, for another I realized that I was spending an average of $200-300 per LP to get what I wanted and in some cases, over $1000 in total (buying 7 different DSOTM pressings and travelling to the UK multiple times to find the best pressings), and I found out that Better Records was on to something: I got burned more than once myself when I was buying clean, never played 1st pressings of some of the top LPs and ending not feeling the love for the results. I appreciate the complexities of the old school vinyl pressing sound chain and its infinite variables, and more times than not I was back sourcing additional copies of the same LP looking for that ‘magical pressing’. I eventually got a stunning DSOTM 2nd pressing (A3/B3) and bought another only to find that the 1st one was way ahead of the 2nd so it shows that even the same pressings can be highly variable – in sound quality/feel/depth/clarity/warmth, but also noise floor. So, yes, there are magical ‘Hot Stampers’ out there, but to find them takes patience and lots of $ and effort. (more…)

This Is the Most Amazing Record the Dregs Ever Made

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More Dixie Dregs

If you want to hear what happens when five virtuoso instrumentalists manage to combine their talent for Jazz, Rock, Classical and Country (thanks god there aren’t any vocals) into a potent mix that defies classification and breaks all the rules, this is the one. It reminds me of Ellington’s famous line that there are only two kinds of music: good music and bad music. This is the kind of music you may have trouble describing, but one thing’s for sure — it’s good. In fact it’s really good.

This is the most AMAZING album the Dregs ever recorded, and now this wild amalgamation of rock, jazz, country, prog and classical music has the kind of sound I always dreamed it could have. It’s rich and smooth like good ANALOG should be. It’s also got plenty of energy and rock and roll drive, which is precisely where the famous half-speed falls apart.
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A Fun and Easy Test for Abbey Road: MoFi Versus Apple

Yet another album we are clearly obsessed with

Click on the link below to pull up the many reviews and commentaries we’ve written, as well as Hot Stamper copies that are currently available on the site.

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Abbey Road

There is a relatively simple test you can use to find out if you have a good Mobile Fidelity pressing of Abbey Road. Yes, as shocking as it may seem, they actually do exist, we’ve played them, but they are few and far between (and never as good as the best Brits).

The test involves doing a little shootout of the song Golden Slumbers between whatever MoFi pressing you have and whatever British Parlophone pressing you have. If you don’t have both LPs this shootout will be difficult to do. The idea is to compare aspects of the sound of both pressings head to head, which should shed light on which one of them is more natural and which is more hi-fi-ish sounding.

The Golden Slumbers Test

I’ve come to realize that this is a Key Track for side two, because what it shows you is whether the midrange of your pressing — or your system — is correct. At the beginning Paul’s voice is naked, front and center, before the strings come in. Most Mobile Fidelity pressings, as good as they can be, are not tonally correct in the middle of the midrange. The middle of the voice is a little sucked out and the top of the voice is a little boosted. It’s really hard to notice this fact unless one plays a good British pressing side by side with the MoFi. Then the typical MoFi EQ anomaly become obvious. It may add some texture to the strings, but the song is not about the strings. (more…)

CDs that Sound Nothing Like Their Vinyl Counterparts

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I made the mistake of buying both Back in Black and Sticky Fingers on CD for my car, and both are a disaster — no bass, no rock weight, with boosted upper mids, no doubt a misguided attempt to provide “clarity”. I couldn’t get three songs into either of them. If this is what the digital lovers of the world think those albums actually sound like, they are living in some kind of parallel universe.

The best pressings on vinyl sound nothing like them. In fact the best pressings sound so good they are on our Top 100. Rest assured that you don’t get to be on our Top 100 with anemic, upper midrangy sound.